Wildlife officers have charged a woman from Virginia with a misdemeanor violation after they say she intentionally fed a black bear while on vacation in Gatlinburg.
In a September 30 video that went viral on TikTok, officials say 21-year-old Kristin Hailee Farris of Danville, VA intentionally hand-fed what appears to be watermelon, chocolate, and other food to a black bear in Gatlinburg. The video is still live on the TikTok platform and has been viewed over 500,000 times.
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Working with wildlife officers from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, Farris has been served with Illegal Black Bear Feeding in Gatlinburg, a Class B Misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. She is required to return to Sevier Co. for booking.
Officials say these types of actions spawned regulations in the year 2000 that prohibit anyone to feed a black bear or leave food or garbage in a manner that attracts bears. The regulations apply to a six square mile area of Gatlinburg and are intended to create a buffer zone to deter bears from going further into the city if they aren’t fed or can’t get into garbage.
“The overwhelming desire to have a close encounter with a black bear is strangely more powerful than common sense,” says Sevier Co. Wildlife Sgt. David Sexton. “Many people intentionally feed bears with little regard for the dire consequences to the bears and humans they leave behind.”